Dillon Continues to Improve
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on March 12, 2016 | 10:11 A.M. EST
“We have just been plugging along trying to eliminate mistakes each and every week. Things have been going well for us. Hopefully, we can continue this streak and continue our run to the front of the field.” (Photo: Getty Images)
Austin Dillon is optimistic about what lies ahead in his third full Sprint Cup Series season.
The Richard Childress Racing driver is off to s solid start in 2016 with two top-10 finishes including his fifth last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He comes into Sunday’s Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway ninth in the series point standings and brings a sense of confidence into the fourth race of the campaign.
“It’s been a good start to the year for our Dow team,” Dillon said Friday at PIR. “We have just been plugging along trying to eliminate mistakes each and every week. Things have been going well for us. Hopefully, we can continue this streak and continue our run to the front of the field.”
Many point to the return of veteran crew chief Slugger Labbe in mid-season last year as an element to Dillon’s ascension. RCR moved Labbe back into the crew chief role after spending time in the organization’s R&D department and the connection was almost instantaneous between the duo.
However, there are times when things can become “spirited” between driver and crew chief, as was the case last week at Las Vegas when Dillon and Labbe engaged in a heated radio communication exchange.
Dillon chalks it up to nothing more than two guys with a desire to succeed.
“It’s a part of being intense,” he explained. “I’ve been intense in all the different levels of racing I’ve come up through here. I felt like we lacked a little bit of that intensity that I’m used to when we got to the Cup Series. Slugger kind of brought that back to me. If you listen to Danny Stockman (Dillon’s crew chief in the Truck and Xfinity Series) and me in our previous championship runs we were pretty aggressive with each other on the radio.
“We are not afraid to tell each other ‘hey this sucks’ or ‘we have to do something different.’ Slugger is really good at being blunt with things and I’ve learned to be able to take it and he can take it too. That is what I love about him.”
Dillon ended last season on an upward trend and that momentum has carried over into 2016. His only finished outside the top-10 came at Atlanta when he just missed the cut with an 11th-place performance.
He believes there’s more success ahead.
"If you look back to last year, we have kind of had this streak going to the end of last year," Dillon said. "I really enjoy working with Slugger and my group of engineers that are with me. … The work is paying off we just have to keep plugging along and never stop working."
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of Sunday's Good Sam 500 beginning at 2:30 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.